DAKOTA CITY, Neb. – A South Sioux City woman will soon be released from jail after pleading no contest to a reduced charge in the August death of her infant daughter in a recliner.
Nicole Ramirez, 24, was sentenced Monday to 160 days in jail after she entered her plea in Dakota County District Court before District Judge John Samson, who found her guilty of misdemeanor child abuse.
An autopsy report lists positional asphyxiation as the cause of death of Abrieana Renee Mace. The 11-week-old baby died in the South Sioux City home of Lorenzo Guzman, where Ramirez and three of her children, including Abrieana, were staying.
Police say Guzman placed the baby in a recliner and propped up a bottle so she could feed about 5 a.m. Aug. 17 and that no one checked on her for seven hours.
Guzman and Ramirez had originally been charged with child abuse resulting in death, a felony that carries a penalty of 20 years to life in prison. In January, those charges were reduced to manslaughter, which is punishable by one to 20 years in prison.
Ramirez, who is also charged with assaulting a fellow inmate in September, had been held in the Dakota County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail. The court accepted the 160-day sentencing recommendation of the state. In plea sentencing this week, Samson ordered that Ramirez be given credit for 148 days served, so she will be released within a few days.
Guzman’s attorney told Samson during a hearing last month that he will use the testimony of a Colorado doctor to show the baby died of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Guzman is free on $40,000 bail.
At the same February hearing, the attorney for Ramirez, Dakota County Public Defender John Loos Jr., said she was not responsible for the death because she did not place the child in the chair.
In information from the February hearing, South Sioux City Police Officer Andrew Backman said he questioned Guzman in the police station, with Guzman telling him Ramirez had gone to sleep at 11:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and that he went to sleep about 12:30 a.m. At that time, Abrieana had been strapped in a car seat in their bedroom, and when Guzman awoke briefly at 5 a.m., he took the baby into the living room, placed her in the recliner, propped her up and left a bottle nearby.
Backman said Guzman told of waking at 9 a.m. when one of Ramirez’s children stirred in the living room. Guzman reportedly went into the room, saw nothing wrong with Abrieana, and returned to sleep in the bedroom until he and Ramirez awoke at 11:30 a.m. Their first action reportedly was to give a haircut to one of the two older children, and they found Abrieana unresponsive around 12:30 p.m.
“(Guzman) said (Ramirez) was a very heavy sleeper, she never got up at night,” Backman said. “That was his responsibility, when they were at his house,” Backman said.
Later, as he ended his remarks for the day, Loos said that although he respected the testimony of the policemen, “I don’t believe it is a mother’s job ... to get up every time, every night.”